Marshall back to drawing board after 16-6 loss
Marshall coach Doc Holliday thought his team had turned a corner last week after it put out probably its best effort of the season in an upset win over Louisville.
It turns out the Thundering Herd still have work to do following a 16-6 setback to Central Florida on Saturday night.
Stymied by lackluster offense and an inability to adapt to heavy and persistent rain throughout the game, Marshall never found any offensive traction. Meanwhile its defense had no answers in the first half for UCF's rushing attack as the Thundering Herd (2-4, 1-1 Conference USA) fell into a 16-0 hole.
''The weather conditions were tough on everyone,'' Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. ''Central Florida was able to run the ball well and we weren't. When you get conditions like that and you can't run the ball you have a hard time winning.''
Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato was spot on through the air in the Louisville game with a pair of touchdowns. But Saturday his receivers dropped several balls and he underthrew others at times in heavy rainfall that persisted throughout the game.
For the night he completed only 11 of his 29 attempts for 87 yards, while the team managed just 130 total yards - both well below their season averages.
UCF's win was its seventh straight over Marshall, a former Mid-American Conference rival.
'''I've been involved in it for two years now, and we got to beat them before it can be a good rivalry,'' Holliday said.
UCF redshirt junior running back Brynn Harvey, who sat out all of 2010 recovering from left knee surgery, had his best effort since his return rushing 30 times for 180 yards to lead the Knights (3-2, 1-0).
''(It felt like going) back to my sophomore year,'' Harvey said. ''I just felt like I'm back at it again. It's a great feeling knowing the coaches believe in me after coming (back) from an ACL injury. It just gives me a lot of motivation, a lot of respect for the coaches knowing that they believe in me to come in and do the job.''
Harvey's big night was needed.
Quarterback Jeff Godfrey was held without rushing score for the first time this season. He did notch his first passing score of 2011, but also threw an interception for the second straight game after three straight without one.
''I thought defensively, we went out there and played well,'' said UCF coach George O'Leary, who earned his 100th career victory. ''I thought offensively we had our moments, but (there were) too many moments when we had opportunities that we squandered on the field, which concerns me as far as some decisions that we're making.''
While UCF may not have been as crisp as O'Leary wanted, Marshall (2-4-1-1) couldn't find any of the offensive traction that it had in its upset win over Louisville a week ago. It was slowed all night by poor field position and a lack of a possession time.
Marshall's scored late in the third quarter when Rashad Jackson returned a Harvey fumble 11 yards for a touchdown.
That remained the score into the fourth when Godfrey was intercepted on the Marshall 4 by Omar Brown with 5:04 to play.
But facing third down on the ensuing series Cato was sacked by Knights' linebacker Josh Linam to force a punt and end the threat. The Knights then put the ball in Harvey's hands and they were able to run out the clock.
UCF wasn't bothered by the rain early and started fast thanks to a 50-yard scamper by Harvey on the first play of the game.
It was also the Knights' longest run of the season and just the start of a big half for Harvey, who racked up 133 yards rushing in the opening 30 minutes.
Godfrey hooked up with A.J. Guyton on a 5-yard touchdown pass six plays later to give UCF the early 7-0 lead.
Following a Marshall punt UCF went right back to work on the ground and moved down to the Marshall 16 before Ronnie Weaver's fumble gave the ball back to the Thundering Herd.
Marshall quickly punted again, though, and UCF used long runs by Harvey and an end around run by receiver Khymest Williams to set up a 1-yard plunge by Latavius Murray to make it 14-0.
Marshall's woes continued early in the second quarter. The Thundering Herd was pinned at their own 2 following a UCF punt and gave up a safety two plays later after being called for a hold in the end zone.
For the half Marshall managed just one first down and 47 total yards. The Knights did most of their damage on the ground with 177 yards and dominated time of possession, holding the ball for more than 20 minutes.